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  • When Your Mess Becomes Your Message

    Micca

    "Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise." (Jeremiah 17:14 NIV)

    For twenty years, my brother was absent from our family because of drug addiction. Countless times, we thought he was dead; according to drug abuse statistics, he should have been. However, my brother is living proof that God is in the restoration business. It doesn't matter who you are, what you've done, or what has been done to you. God is willing and able to turn any tragedy into triumph.

    After entering many treatment programs with hopes of success and end results of failure, my brother finally found the answer: Jesus. It wasn't until he met the Lord that he experienced lasting healing and life change. Suddenly, all things became new.

    My brother didn't have the strength, willpower, or ability to free himself from bondage, but that changed when he surrendered his life to Christ. The same is true for us. No matter what the bondage is—drugs, lust, gluttony, pride, anger, or fear—until we renounce our sickness and surrender to Christ, we will never experience freedom. On the other hand, when we are willing to give King Jesus our mess, He turns it into our message. And that's exactly what happened to my brother. Not a day goes by that my brother doesn't look for opportunities to brag on God and share His message of hope.

    Such an opportunity arose one evening when my sister, brother, and I met together for dinner at a local restaurant. Our server was twenty-six-year-old Tiffany. Right away, we noticed two things about Tiffany. She had a natural gift for putting people at ease, and she was very pregnant. While we enjoyed her kind service, we had no idea that God would soon call us to serve her.

    It started when my sister refused to allow my brother to pay for her dinner. While my sister loves to give to others, she's not so good at receiving. I, on the other hand, understood that it gave my brother great pleasure to pick up the check. The Lord knows I didn't want to deny him his blessing!

    Poor Tiffany found herself caught in the middle. Eager to win her over to his side, my brother said to Tiffany, "You see, I was a drug addict for years. During that time, my sisters did a lot for me. Now, I just want to bless them."

    Tiffany's eyes widened. "You were a drug addict?" she inquired. "I would have never guessed."

    "Yes, I was," my brother replied. "But Jesus changed all that." Then he told Tiffany his life-changing story.

    "I went from being lost to being found; from being homeless to being a homeowner; from being an employee to owning my own business; from being bound by drugs to being set free in Christ."

    Tears filled Tiffany's eyes as we shared God's love with her. That's not all. Later that week, we confirmed God's love to her by presenting her with a gift for her baby.

    When you and I—like my brother—allow God to turn our mess into our message, He not only changes our lives, but He changes the lives of others too.

    Dear Lord, Your mercy astounds me. Give me opportunities to speak of Your hope so others may know Your goodness and salvation. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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    Remember No matter what your bondage, surrendering it to Christ is the pathway to freedom.

    Reflect What steps do you need to take today to move from bondage to freedom? Reflect with gratitude on how God has turned your mess into a message that can encourage or bring life change to others.

    Respond Go for it! Write out your story of surrender and ask God to provide opportunities for you to encourage others.

    Power Verses Luke 19:10; Ephesians 2:8-9

    Taken from Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Living by Renee Swope, Lysa TerKeurst and Samantha Evilsizer. © 2013 Proverbs 31 Ministries. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Bond Servant

    Boyd

    “The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:24-25, NASB

    We are all a servant to something—either a servant to the light or a servant to the darkness. Satan is served or the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is served—there is no middle ground. The wise and humble servant serves the Lord with a grateful heart. It is much better to be bound by the grace of God than enslaved by the lies of the devil.

    “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17b-18).

    What does it mean to be a bond-servant of Christ? It means owned by God. The lost stand on the slave block of sin waiting to be auctioned to the highest bidder. Halleluiah that heaven came down at the cross of Christ and purchased through His shed blood all who would believe. Purchase means possession—He is Master of all or not Master at all.

    Therefore, we no longer live in bondage to bad habits and bad beliefs. A bond-servant of Jesus is set free to humble service on behalf of his owner. We are not ashamed, because representing Almighty God in righteous living is the least we can do as an expression of our gratitude and joy. We empty ourselves and are filled with God’s grace. It’s His agenda, so we listen patiently waiting to hear instructions from Jesus on what to do next.

    “But emptied Himself [Jesus], taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8, NASB).

    True bond-servants invite being treated like a servant, as it models the way of Jesus. You volunteer for roles that require humble service, so you are not tempted to perch over others in pride. What responsibilities are you resisting that require being seen as a servant? Does it mean someone else will get the credit? Are you serving for an audience of One or to be seen by men? So, serve faithfully behind the scenes for your Savior’s sake. You are in good company—all respected saints saw themselves as bond-servants.

    “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John” (Revelation 1:1, NASB).

    Prayer: What role is the Lord calling me to serve that requires being treated like a servant?

    Related Readings: Deuteronomy 32:36; Psalm 116:16; Galatians 1:10; Revelation 15:3

    Post/Tweet today: Much better to be bound by the grace of God than enslaved by the lies of the devil. #bondservant

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • A NEW GENERATION OF WORSHIP MUSIC FROM HILLSONG

    This past July during Hillsong's Annual Conference in Sydney, Australia, the church introduced an exciting and new generation of worship music. Welcome Hillsong Young & Free, who will officially release their debut CD "We Are Young & Free" on October 1, 2013.

    Creating such a new sound is a bold move for Hillsong, who has a unique sound and worship style the world has come to know and love through their UNITED and LIVE brands. With Young & Free, this worship is stylistically more of a reflection of what youth are listening to now.

    “Young & Free is more than a label, it is also our message and mission,” shares Laura Toggs, team leader for Young & Free. “This is a generation called to stand strong in their youth and in their freedom, refusing to allow others to dismiss them for their age. Songs arising from Young & Free are unlike anything that we have ever done before, and we believe that through them young people will find life and deep, unending joy in Jesus. We are the voice of THIS generation.”

    Young & Free will also be traveling to the U.S. to perform at the first-ever Hillsong U.S. Conferences in New York City (Oct. 4 & 5) and Los Angeles (Oct. 18 & 19). Young & Free members will also join UNITED on their fall leg of the WELCOMEZION tour.

  • Jefferson Bethke - Loving Jesus More Than Anything Else

    Jefferson Bethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate, provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The 4-minute video literally became an overnight sensation, with 7 million YouTube views in its first 48 hours (and 23+ million in a year). The message blew up on social-media, triggering an avalanche of responses running the gamut from encouraged to enraged.

    Jefferson is quick to acknowledge that he’s not a pastor or theologian, but simply a regular, twenty-something who cried out for a life greater than the one for which he had settled. Along his journey, he discovered the real Jesus, who beckoned him beyond the props of false religion.

    I was able to talk with Jeff over the phone about his life. How he grew up. We chatted about what shaped him. Where the idea for the video came from and his plans for the future.

    John: Jeff, I'm wondering if you could give us a little bit of background information. Where did you come from and how did you get into the place you are now?

    Jefferson: I grew up in Tacoma, Washington—spent pretty much my whole life in the Northwest. I grew up in a really tough broken home with a single mom and welfare, stuff like that. Religion was something that we still did, or saw, as the cultural default. So we would go to church sometimes. I knew the songs, but I wasn't myself necessarily a church kid. That took me all the way to high school where I was defined by what I didn't do: I didn't smoke, I didn't drink, so you know, I was that “I'm better than you” kid. This was my identity.

    In my junior and senior years, the world became a lot more attractive than white-knuckling obedience. So I threw in the towel on that, went down more of a prodigal son path. That took me to college where everything just crashed down a couple of years in. I soon realized that lifestyle wasn't fruitful either. My girlfriend broke up with me, I got kicked off the baseball team, and I got put on academic probation all in one week. That woke me up and made me say, "Hey, what am I doing with my life?" That's when I opened the Scriptures and read about Jesus for the first time, the actual real Jesus. The man who was compassionate but did some interesting things, so you couldn't really put Him in a box. I remember just saying then, "That's a guy worth following."

    It wasn't an overnight process. I remember six months after reading and praying and loving this Jesus guy, I looked back and said, "Well, I guess that makes me a Christian now because I follow Him, I love Him, I read the Word and want to be a disciple." That was about five years ago.

    Fast forward to senior year of college. I was going to a non-Christian, really secular, liberal arts small school outside of Portland. It's very similar to Reed College in its atmosphere. I was just looking for opportunities to talk about Jesus. I remember posting a Bible study and inviting anyone, but only two people would show up. There was open mic on campus where once a month, any student can sing, dance, whatever, stuff like that. So I said, "Well, a couple of hundred people show up to that and there's only 1,500 students in the school, so it seems like a great opportunity."

    That's when I initially wrote the poem called "Sexual Healing." And then I wrote "Why I Hate Religion" for that open mic. I never performed the "Why I Hate Religion" because I graduated before the next open mic, but that's where that came from. That's the heart it came from: me wanting to share with a very post-modern college demographic—just a few hundred students. Then my buddy who was a videographer heard about one of them and was like, “Hey, let's put this on YouTube." We had no rhyme or reason, just maybe our moms or our friends would see it. We put up "Why I Hate Religion" and it got a little crazy overnight. That has definitely put me where I am today, in the sense of what I do now. I get to just be creative on a daily basis. I get to write stuff. I get to do videos, which is really fun. I get to study God's Word.

    John: Jefferson, were you making videos before "Why I Hate Religion"?

    Jefferson: No, not really. The "Sexual Healing" poem we did one video. We put that online, and that did pretty well. It got like 100,000 views, I think, in 6 or 7 months. We were kind of like, "Oh, we might as well make another one" but this time I had the platform to put it out on social media. So we decided to do the "Why I Hate Religion," the second video I ever uploaded to YouTube.

    John: Why do you think the "Why I Hate Religion" video struck such a chord with culture today?

    Jefferson: I think there are a million reasons, honestly. I think one of the main reasons is that religion means a million different things to a million different people. "Religion" is a very, very beautiful biblical word to people. And then at least in my context—a little more Seattle or Oregon context—that word becomes synonymous with "that stuff." It's a caricature, this idea that you have to earn God by what you do, and hate gays, and can't drink beer. And so that was part of it I think. I think putting "Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus" in a title can get a little crazy when everyone has their own definition of that, right?

    We're in the middle of a cultural shift in America. I really do believe that. I think when I was a kid, America was predominantly Christian in thought. Now of course I'm not saying Christian nation, none of that stuff. I'm saying there was a worldview, when I was growing up, of Christian principles, Christian values. Now I would argue that America is post-Christian. Christianity no longer has power, authority, or influences our values, culture or society.

    Being in the middle of that shift, I think a lot of my generation resonated with that video because I think it was trying to pull from one shift to the other and say, "Hey, this is where we're at. This is what Jesus really says." Looking back and having thought about it for almost two years now, I landed in the middle of that zeitgeist of the cultural shift.

    John: Were you expecting the amount of criticism that you received?

    Jefferson: No, no, not one bit. Looking back, I was 100% naive and oblivious to any of that. I lived with 10 guys at the time I put the video up. We put it up online at night. We were joking around and took bets on how many views we think it would get in 24 hours. Whoever was closest would get dinner paid for by the other guys. I think the lowest bet was 2,000 views in 24 hours and the highest bet was 9,000 views in 24 hours. And I was like, "That is ludicrous; it'll never happen." And then in 24 hours it had 1.6 million views—just a little more than 9,000! And with that came all the criticism. And it was hard, the criticism. I don't want to relive those two weeks. I don't ever want to go back there.

    John: Do you think that to some extent you were exposing some people's false identity within the body of Christ, and that's what caused people to not like the video so much?

    Jefferson: Yeah. I would totally agree with that. I think when you read the Scriptures there's a level of Jesus being ridiculously pervasive, right? Offensive and pervasive and pushing back against certain paradigms and worldviews that had become stale, corrupt, stuff like that. So we have to recognize those are probably still there.

    When you tell the best people in the world, the most moral people in the world, i.e., the Pharisees, that what they're doing isn't good enough and what they're doing isn't working, and that Jesus doesn't approve of what they're doing, that's really offensive. A better way to say it is, they've missed it. If you go to those people who have dedicated their whole lives to doing X, Y and Z, and you say, “Hey, you missed it. It's actually about intimacy with your Creator and He desires mercy, not sacrifice," things like that, yeah that's offensive.

    John: Because all of a sudden you made it extremely personal then.

    Jefferson: Exactly. And that's what I thought was really interesting: Every denomination and almost every world religion took the video as offensive to them personally. I thought that was fascinating. There was a response from every religion. There was a Mormon video response, a Catholic video response, an atheist video response, etc. And then also a few denominations wrote critiques and responses. I never really mentioned any kind of cultural or denominational bent, and it was interesting that some people thought I was writing to them.

    John: As I was going through and reliving the video from a couple of years ago, I was also looking at some of those critiques and how they were coming from, like you said, both within the body of Christ—as far as a particular denomination—as well as those that would be outside the body of Christ—people that were maybe within a specific religion that would not be considered Christian. And I thought that was really ironic, because it was almost as if they weren't listening to what you were saying. They were more interested in protecting their own turf in a sense.

    Jefferson: Yes. That's a good way to put it, and what I think it turned into is everyone thought, "We have to respond with our version." In all honesty, I didn't totally lay my cards all out on the table, but that video was to Christians. That video wasn't really to anyone else. Maybe New Testament Christianity is just a little bit different than 21st century modern Evangelicalism in these ways. That was my thrust and heart behind writing it in the first place.

    John: When you look at the body of Christ today, Jefferson, are you excited? Are you hopeful? Do you have concerns over the church? You've been speaking both in churches and on college campuses since you put out the video—what have you seen?

    Jefferson: I'm always excited about the body of Christ. I think that's God's Plan A. There is no Plan B. And I think the promise He gave to Peter 2,000 years ago, that the gates of hell won't prevail against it, it's not going anywhere—that always excites me. No matter what happens, no matter what chaff might burn away, the body of Christ is always there and always changing the world and always moving and organic across the globe, making disciples. Yeah, that always excites me.

    This is a little bit more radical position, but I am excited about being in a more post-Christian society than a pseudo-Christian society, if that makes sense. Because I think there's a lot more opportunity for realness. You know whose team everyone is on.

    John: Well, there's a definite line between somebody who's standing up for the moral rights of an individual, or a group of people, and declaring that that is gospel, versus somebody that's saying what we find in the Bible is completely and radically different than what you're saying over here.

    Jefferson: Exactly, exactly. That excites me, because I think when you read church history, you see that when there's a little bit more purity of the body of Christ in a particular nation or society, then there seems to be a little bit more power. I think we're going to a place where the people who might only culturally want Jesus are falling by the wayside. It makes it a little bit easier for the gospel, too, because 15 years ago if you were to go up to anyone and say, "Let me tell you about Jesus," nine people out of ten would say, "I already raised my hand and signed a card. I don't need that."

    One thing that I think is a little scary for me is that the millennial generation is going to be the predominant generation here soon. I'm scared that when we get there, we're not setting ourselves up for success in the sense of community. I don't think my generation is very good at community. I don't think we're very good at vulnerability, I don't think we're very good at not living individualistically and submitting to others out of love. I think that can really come back to bite us in 20 or 30 years. That would be one thing that's scaring me about the future.

    John: Jefferson, would you consider yourself to be a theologian?

    Jefferson: I think technically everyone's a theologian; some people just have really crappy theology. I'm going to just say that bluntly because it's kind of true. But if you're asking in the traditional sense, it's yes and no. Yes, because technically everyone is. All that means is that you have studies about God and views about God and knowledge of God actually. But then technically, no, because I'm not a Ph.D. or anything of that nature. I do think there's a little bit of idolatry in America over degrees, over power of the Spirit, if that makes sense. Like if you didn't go to seminary, then don't talk about God. I just don't see that in the Scriptures. I do see education and knowledge and context, all those things being vitally important, but there's a little tension there.

    John: You're about ready to launch your first book, Jesus Is Greater Than Religion. Was that the logical next step?

    Jefferson: For me, book writing has always been my heart, always been my love, always been something I’ve wanted to do. It's something that's been a dream of mine.

    A lot of people don't know this, but poetry isn't really my—how do I say this?—it's not really my huge calling, desire, overarching passion. Those poems were written because I was trying to force myself to figure something out that would work on a stage to talk to a couple of hundred students at a specific university. You can't speak, you can't preach for 45 minutes at an open mic, and I can't sing or play instruments, so I thought I would make something rhyme and see how it goes. And when I first did it, I thought that would be the first and the last poem I'd ever write. Obviously it's snowballed since then, but I've only written five or six poems.

    My heart really is in teaching. Even outside of seminary or anything like that, I wanted to be a high school teacher, teach social studies and government. Now I really enjoy teaching the Word. I've always had that teaching bent. I think poems were one outflow of that, and so for me, a book actually feels more natural to me, in the sense of what I like to do, what stirs me. I hope based on how well this one does and the second one that I have to turn in next year, that hopefully I can do this for good and make it one of the predominant things I do for the next 50 years. But that could just be a hopeful wish. We'll see.

    John: When you do walk into a university, a college campus, or a church as a speaker, what are you speaking about? Are you dovetailing off what took place in the poetry and the video?

    Jefferson: It depends what they invite me for. For example, my wife Alyssa and I traveled

    Jeff

    to West Virginia a couple of weeks ago for a church camp. That was more like sessions where I'm walking them through certain things. I think I spoke eight times or something like that. If it's just one Sunday service, then people usually know me from the poem, I'll take that familiarity and say, "OK, this is what I was trying to do with that." And I'll speak on the prodigal son, or I'll speak on the difference between religion and Jesus and say, "This is my heart. This is what I think, where we need to go and how we convey the gospel from here on out."

    John: You and your wife are launching something new. How would you describe it?

    Jefferson: I'd call it a social startup or a social entrepreneurship.

    John: Tell us about it.

    Jefferson: I started it with a buddy of mine named Brett. He's the CEO and I'm the co-founder with him. He does a lot of non-profit work with development in Uganda and Ghana and all these different places in Africa. And then, me and a buddy of mine do a college ministry in town. We started to get this burden for non-profits. They're usually doing the best Kingdom work, but also struggle the most for resources and finances. They always have to do the same ask. Sooner or later they run out of money and have to go ask again.

    We said, "What would it look like if we entered the domain of business, redeemed that culture of business, did it differently as a Christian and showed that the gospel informs business just as much as it informs non-profit work? And then used that to give money, or to bring light and social awareness to different causes?"

    Our tagline is bring light to social injustice. We thought candles were really interesting symbols for a few reasons. They're in everyone's homes. You don't really have to be a certain age to be a candle person. I love candles. I know people that love candles. It burns for a long time, and so even as a symbol, it's remembrance. When you burn a candle, you're remembering something.

    What each candle represents is a different element of injustice. We have one that's called Peace, which is for child soldiers. We have candles for Food, Education, Water, etc. We have nine all together. Each time you buy a candle, there's a different tangible outcome. If you buy a small Food candle, it gives one meal to a child in need. If you buy a large Food candle, it gives three meals. If you buy the Addiction candle, it gives an hour session of counseling to bring people out of addiction.

    It's our way of bringing light to social injustice. We wanted the candle to be in someone's home where they're remembering they are in solidarity with humanity. They are supporting someone across the globe or in their backyard by that purchase.

    We didn't want to start something new in the sense of a non-profit; we wanted to raise awareness and funds for people who are already doing awesome stuff.

    John: That's very cool. All right, one last question, Jeff. You're a Pacific Northwesterner. So are you a coffee drinker?

    Jefferson: I am not just a coffee drinker, I am a coffee-IV-in-my vein-drinker. My wife and I love coffee. I just had a cup of coffee a second ago. We're those snobs who research how to make it perfectly, fiddle with temperatures, all that stuff.

    Do you remember watching the video?

    SIDE NOTE: Jefferson asked his friends and followers to submit videos in supporting his new book. Here is the winner. A powerful video indeed. What do you think?

  • A Word for the Weary

    Wendy

    "The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed." Isaiah 50:4 (NIV)

    I was not a happy person.

    I was struggling in my faith and failing to be the woman God called me to be. My responses to life's hiccups were harsh. My words to loved ones were rude. My disposition toward others was judgmental.

    It was during this period in my life when I was introduced to Isaiah 50:4, "The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed" (NIV). My heart was gripped when I read the word weary. I remember thinking, I'm weary. I need sustaining.

    The sustaining part of the verse sounded soothing and comforting; however, the morning wakeup call felt obtrusive and demanding. Why couldn't I receive a sustaining word later in the day? Though I didn't want to wake up earlier, it was the only way I could spend time with God in my full schedule. And I did want my life to be different, so I thought, Why not? Things can't get any worse.

    I picked a time and a place to pray and read my Bible. The sun would rise and I would too, grumbling ... a lot! But day after day, I dragged myself out of bed, marched up the stairs, sat in the same place I called my "Jesus chair" and whined about getting out of my snuggly covers. Our morning meetings were rote and ridged, nothing like what I expected when my weary heart was first gripped by that verse in Isaiah.

    I couldn't help but wonder, Why aren't the issues in my life being resolved? When is the Lord going to fix all the people in my life? What good is this quiet time thing anyway?

    Even though I was frustrated, I was determined. So I continued to roll out of bed, put on my robe and sit in my Jesus chair with my Bible and devotion book. Little by little my heart softened. There was less complaining and more contentment. My ears began to listen like one being instructed, just like the verse in Isaiah says.

    Over time, God's Word took root in my heart, and I experienced its sustaining power. My weariness started to subside as I turned my focus from it to the presence of God. In the morning, I greeted my family with a smile and cheerful disposition. Moments of panic were now met with peaceful words. Unforeseen schedule changes were calmly resolved. If the day didn't go as planned, I could still praise.

    Are you looking for a word to sustain your weary soul? Are you desperate enough to dedicate time each day in God's Word? For me, it has to be in the morning, in my Jesus chair, before the rush of emails, carpool and work demands.

    Perhaps your Jesus chair is the front seat of your car with your Bible during your daughter's ballet class. Maybe your Jesus chair is at your desk with a devotional book as you eat lunch and pray.

    You see, it really doesn't matter where or when you meet with God, it only matters that you spend time together each day. His Word is our sustaining power. We can't live life without it!

    Pull up a Jesus chair. Grab your Bible and maybe a devotional book. Then listen like one being taught. He has much to say.

    Dear Lord, I am desperate and need a word to sustain my weary soul. I am willing to commit time in Your Word each day. Help me sit still and listen like one being taught. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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    Reflect and Respond: Pick a Jesus chair where you will spend time with Him each day.

    Write a prayer of commitment to God. Tuck the prayer in your Bible where you can pray it often.

    Power Verses: Psalm 46:10a, "Be still I know that I am God." (NLT)

    Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Fear of Death

    Boyd

    and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:15

    Jesus has conquered death; therefore, followers of Jesus need not fear death. You may have a fear of dying, but not of death. For the believer in Christ, death is a pass through, a transition from this life to the next. Death is not final for it is the doorway to eternity. Indeed, it is the beginning of an eternity in the physical presence of Jesus. Everything we have experienced with Christ on earth is an appetizer of what is to come. Our faith can only digest a mere morsel of what God has in store for those who love Him. Do not let the prospects of death get you down, as it is a commencement to be celebrated. You have remained faithful in this school of life, and now God has a glorious graduation in store for you. Yes, there is some fear of the unknown, but there is a lot we do know that keeps fear in check. We know that death, for the followers of Christ, places them in an environment of sinless bliss. You can live and breathe without the fear of AIDS, murder, adultery, homosexuality, lying, cheating, pain, hunger, abortion, or poverty. Life in heaven is not good; it is great. Death releases you from the pain of your current suffering. Your suffering has perfected your character and faith in Christ. Now you are ready to be received back home. Your suffering has drawn you into an incredible intimacy with your Savior. As a consequence, many others beyond your comprehension have been drawn close to your Lord. Nurses, doctors, friends, and relatives stand in awe and fall on their knees before your God. Your death will not only set you permanently free, but will do the same for others who believe. Death is freedom, it is not to be feared. So, in the meantime, make every effort to prepare yourself and others for death. The fear of death creeps in where there has been no preparation. You can ignore its reality but you will still die. You can deny death, but not its consequences. You may have a chance to repent on your deathbed, but why wait? Why take the chance of choosing hell over heaven? Death is not a lottery ticket; so don’t gamble with your soul. Go with God’s sure thing, faith in Jesus Christ. He has died and risen from the dead, so He can be trusted. He has been there, dealt with death, and reigns over all in heaven. Moreover, love the dying. Everyone is dying; but reach out to those closer to death’s door. The depth of wisdom that comes from the dying has the aroma of heaven. That which is important falls from their lips, as priorities are aligned and lived. Being with the dying prepares you for dying, as it is preparation for the one receiving care and for the caregiver. Death is an absolute. It may come suddenly or at the end of a long process, but either way God can be trusted. You have questions about the timing of death that may only be answered in heaven. Above all, God is good and God is great. Thank him for every breath you take. Enjoy and celebrate death’s release. Because Jesus died and rose again, you will do the same. Fear only God, and enjoy the benefit of death’s freedom. The Bible teaches, “‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57). Walk with the dying for their edification and for your own.

    Taken from the September 22nd reading in the 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God” volume 1... http://bit.ly/Tv6y9a

    Post/Tweet: The depth of wisdom from the dying has the aroma of heaven. What’s important falls from their lips. #fearofdeath

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Peace of Mind

    Boyd

    “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

    Peace of mind begins with peace with God. Inner peace is only sustainable when the created has made peace with its Creator. This peace with Providence comes in surrender to the Lord. It is not a negotiation, compromise, or deal with Divinity. Tranquility comes from trust, a complete capitulation to Christ. Peace with God brings the peace of God.

    “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

    Peace of mind is a gift Jesus gives to all who will receive. He bequeathed His bountiful blessing of peace before He departed back to His heavenly home. Part of the legacy our Lord left was one of quiet confidence based on the belief of His sufficiency. When we have Jesus, we have all we need for genuine fulfillment. Peace accompanies His purposes.

    There is a pseudo peace of mind the world offers, but its slick packaged appeal quickly gives way to its destructive contents. It offers an alluring escape through artificial stimulants, busy schedules, material possessions, power, and control. However, these external facades of peace fade away; only the inner fortitude of the peace of Christ is lasting.“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

    It is this bond of peace that enables believers to come together with courage and conviction to accomplish Christ’s plan. The enemy shrinks back when followers of Jesus forgo fighting each other and unify in prayer, love, spiritual warfare, the proclamation of the gospel, and making disciples. Peace of mind propels us forward by faith to serve Him.

    “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).

    Above all, allow the peace of Christ to rule your heart. Trouble and fear will tremble in the face of peace because they lose their grip to God’s grace. No longer are you whipped around by the cares of this world because your compass is Christ. You have peace of mind because you have Jesus. Submission to His Spirit produces real peace.

    “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

    Prayer: Is my peace based on external circumstances or my internal intimacy with Jesus?

    Related Readings: Numbers 6:25–26; 1 Thessalonians 5:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:16

    Post/Tweet: Inner peace is only sustainable when the created has made peace with its Creator. #peaceofmind
    Related Resources Billy Graham - The Reason for My Hope: Salvation
    In The Reason for My Hope, Graham presents the core message that has guided his life and calling for more than 70 years. Filled with new stories and timeless truth, he once again calls the world back to its spiritual priority as only he can.

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Priority Living

    Boyd

    “Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways.’ Haggai 1:5

    Priority living is based on what God deems necessary and important. He deserves our very best. Followers of Christ are honored not to give the Lord leftovers, but the first fruits. First fruit giving and living means Jesus receives the best of everything about us. We give Him the best of our time and money. Priority living is defining priorities as God defines them and then planning our actions, goals and living around these priorities.

    Without intentionally living out God’s priorities, we default to reactionary living. Whatever comes our way then becomes our default for living. This may take less thinking and praying, but it is no way to honor the Lord. Priority living asks the question, “Am I defining priorities as God defines priorities and am I living these out for His glory?” Once His priorities are defined the goal is to execute His priorities for His glory.

    Priority living is prayerful living. It is aligning with God’s heart the best you know how and then trusting Him with your time and money. Priority living is giving God, first and foremost, what He deserves and expects from His children. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

    Kingdom living is priority living. The priorities of God’s Kingdom are clearly stated. The greatest commands are to love Him and to love people (Matthew 22:38-39). Loving God is priority. You spend time with whom you love. It is seeking God’s face daily to love and be loved. It is sending up quick prayers throughout the day as a reminder to ourselves that He is in control and we are not. Indeed, loving God is obeying God. He says, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). Obedience is God’s love language.

    Loving God also requires listening to God. You listen to whom you love and respect. God has a lot to say. He is all knowing and all wise. Thus, it is of course very, very worthwhile to listen to your heavenly Father. What is He saying to you through a specific Scripture passage? A soiled Bible facilitates a clean heart, so harvest His priorities from His word. Priorities for you may vary from the priorities for someone else. Your age and stage of life demand a different focus. Be adaptable and nimble to reprioritize as needed.

    Priority living not only involves loving God, it involves loving people. Our motive is to love them to Jesus. Like Andrew with Peter (John 1:40-42), if we can get them to Jesus, He can handle their needs and wants. Therefore, love takes time. It is an investment. People do not change overnight. We are called to make disciples and disciple making is best implemented in an environment of loving patience. People are a priority. What a privilege and compelling calling to love God and to love people. This is priority living!

    Prayer: What are the Lord’s top priorities for my life?

    Related Readings: Psalm 86:12; Matthew 7:12: Philippians 4:8; 1 Peter 2:12

    Post/Tweet today: First fruit giving and living means Jesus receives the best of everything about us. #priorityliving
    Related Resources Billy Graham - The Reason for My Hope: Salvation
    In The Reason for My Hope, Graham presents the core message that has guided his life and calling for more than 70 years. Filled with new stories and timeless truth, he once again calls the world back to its spiritual priority as only he can.

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • No Place Like Home

    Tracie

    "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father's home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?" John 14:1-2 (NLT)

    My daughter Morgan was moving into her first apartment. We had spent the summer shopping for everything she would need, but even after the necessities were purchased, her list of wants and perceived "needs" continued to grow.

    Pretty artwork and picture frames. Lamps and decorative rugs. Soft blankets for the couch. Not basic necessities for everyday living, but Morgan's way of trying to create a home: somewhere she felt loved and secure.

    Don't we all long for a place to call home? Jesus knew this same desire rested in the hearts of His followers. They had left everything to be with Him, and their longing for home was real. In John 14:1-2, Jesus told His disciples that He would soon be leaving the earth. Jesus knew they were concerned, and He wanted to ease their worries while giving them strength to carry on.

    As a comfort, Jesus reassured His disciples they would see Him again at "home." He said, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father's home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:2)

    Jesus was referring to Heaven, an eternal home prepared for us after this life. In Heaven, there is room for everyone and all are invited to live there. But not everyone accepts this invitation or knows how to accept it. In fact, even the disciples were perplexed about what Jesus was telling them.

    To help them understand this promise of His Father's house and how they could join Him there, Jesus explained in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me" (NLT).

    Many try to work their way ... buy their way ... or rationalize their way into Heaven. But Jesus is the only way. We must willingly accept the invitation Jesus extends to make Him Lord of our lives so we may one day live in His Father's home.

    Countless people have accepted that invitation. Yet many others haven't. Whether we've done so or not, everyone has a longing for the safe haven of Heaven. This desire is talked about in Ecclesiastes 3:11b, "He has also set eternity in the human heart" (NIV).

    God created us with an innate yearning for our heavenly home. And while that longing will not be filled with anything on earth, it will be satisfied in Heaven. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we receive His invitation to spend eternity with Him and have our desire for home be complete in Him.

    This home in Heaven will be filled with the presence of God, overflowing with love, peace and rest. A place where sorrow and suffering doesn't exist. Joy will be experienced like never before.

    My daughter wanted her home to feel special; many of us do. But no matter how many cozy throw pillows and lovely curtains we add, our house here on earth will never really satisfy our desire for "home." Nor can it compare to the magnificence of our heavenly home.

    Perhaps that longing for something more ... for "home" ... resonates within your heart. A place where you are welcomed and loved. The wonderful news is your heavenly home has been prepared for you. By surrendering your heart to Jesus and obeying Scripture, you accept your invitation to a home where you'll be overjoyed to spend time forever.

    Jesus, my heart yearns to experience the comfort, peace and eternal joy in the heavenly home prepared for me. Ready my heart to accept Your invitation of eternal life. I want You to dwell in my heart now, and I long to live with You in Heaven. Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Reflect and Respond: If you haven't done so yet, what is holding you back from accepting Jesus' invitation to an eternal home in Heaven?

    Power Verse: Acts 4:12, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Inspect What’s Expected

    Boyd

    “Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the LORD had commanded. So Moses blessed them.” Exodus 39:43

    Excellent work requires regular inspection. We all do better when others are watching, especially when it’s the Lord and those we respect. Work is an expression of the worker, so it's imperative the work is done intentionally and with integrity. If we resist someone looking over our shoulder to verify our efforts then we miss out on much needed accountability.

    Do you have clarity in what’s expected of you in your role at work? If not, seek out your supervisor and confirm his or her expectations making sure they align with your understanding. Like a team sport, you want to make sure you are both playing the same game and executing the same plays. Excellent execution requires alignment of expectations. Be grateful you have a boss who cares to look closely at what you do.

    “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23).

    Do you serve in a position of authority at work or home? Perhaps you supervise a small team at work, maybe you are a sole proprietor with only an assistant or are responsible at home to oversee the domestic duties. If you are a supervisor—do you lovingly supervise? A responsible manager takes time to instruct the team members in expected outcomes, define the process and then oversee the systematic implementation.

    Organizations undisciplined in follow-up and follow through find themselves missing deadlines with inferior results. Wise are the men and women who understand up front and embrace the plan, and who regularly give a status report in their area of expertise. These are the conscientious ones who steward well their responsibilities at work.

    Is your home in disarray or is there well-defined structure around who is responsible for what chores? Maybe you start with the husband proactively caring for the outside needs and the house maintenance, while the wife manages the inside tasks. Engage the children to keep their rooms clean and organized, while helping dad and mom. Review regularly who is responsible for what and reward good results done with a good attitude.

    Above all ask, “What are the Lord’s expectations?” It’s an attractive attitude at work and home that flows from a faith that first seeks to follow Christ’s instructions. Make sure you lay your work before the Lord at His altar of excellence. Is He pleased with your productivity? Are you supervising His resources and relationships as His wise steward?

    “The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns” (Luke 12:42-43).

    Related Readings: Genesis 43:16; Luke 16: 1-14; Hebrews 2:1; 1 Peter 4:10

    Post/Tweet today: Excellent work requires regular inspection. We all do better when others are watching. #accountability
    Related Resources Billy Graham - The Reason for My Hope: Salvation
    In The Reason for My Hope, Graham presents the core message that has guided his life and calling for more than 70 years. Filled with new stories and timeless truth, he once again calls the world back to its spiritual priority as only he can.

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

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    …to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
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